Okay, I get it. I listen to strange music, I own two typewriters, I spend my days writing in rustic cafés, I down lattes like they were Smarties, I wear high-waisted jeans and I don’t give a fuck what you think. I may, in fact, be a hipster. Whatever. Most people spend years running away from who they really are. I’m comfortable in my hipsterdom.
I just got back from spending a month in Vienna (with an extra couple of weeks on the side to visit friends in London, Prague, Amsterdam and Brussels), and while I was in the planning stages of the trip, I was Googling fun, alternative, creative things to do in Vienna, but came up empty. Apart from doing the museum-clusterfuck, or the Stephansdom-two-step, the internet was not very forthcoming with activities for the lumberjack-suspenders-bowtie-red-lipstick-thick-eyebrows crowd. Last name FAIL, first name EPIC. No TripAdvisor, I do NOT want to jump on an obnoxious hop-on-hop-off bus painted the colour of communist China. Yes LonelyPlanet, there are other places to get free wifi besides the McDonalds on the Graben, thanks.
So I decided to make my own Viennese Hipster guide so no one has to suffer my fate again. If you’re headed to the Austrian capitol and want to be a total WIENER (haaaaaaaaaaaaa), I did all the artisanal legwork for you. I’ve crafted The Hipster’s Guide to Vienna for all your ironic needs. included in this post are helpful tips on:
Shopping That Isn’t Bullshit
Activities That Aren’t Lame
Cafes that Aren’t Touristy
Cafes To Avoid Like Herpes
Souvenirs That Aren’t Made In China
Hunting Vienna’s Dark Past
Museums That Still Profit From Nazi-Looting
German Phrases You Will Deffo Need.
Accommodation & Where To Stay
See this above photo? That’s where I stayed. It was a palatial flat in the area of Meidling with high ceilings, massive windows, glass chandeliers, antique furniture, a record player, and two Snugglebum von Cuddletummies (cats). And I stayed here for free.
Housesitting, I was. As usual.
If you’re a hipster, you COULD pay for an overpriced Air Bn’B on the Ringstrasse, you COULD Couchsurf on some uni student’s couch that smells of patchouli, OR you could stay for free in a place all to yourself in exchange for giving the Snugglebum von Cuddletummies some lurve. It’s up to you. If you do decide to stay in a hostel or hotel or some other huge mistake, do yourself a favour and stay outside of the touristy Maria-Hilfer strasse. It’s just too gross, too uncultured, too bullshit. Meidling was a great area because it was only 3 uBahn stops away from Westbahnhof station, and only 3 stops away on the Schnellverbindungen to the Quartier Belvedere, or 4 stops to Landstrasse Wien Mitte.
The #ringstrasse of Vienna, seen from the classic wooden tram! . . . . . #Vienna #austria #liveauthentic #cityscape #exploreeverything #artofvisuals #neverstopexploring #visualsoflife #streetdreamsmag #huffpostgram #exclusive_shot #peoplescreatives #mobilemag #beautifuldestinations #igworldclub #passionpassport #urbanromantix #nothingisordinary #tram #shotaward #exploretocreate #wanderlust #letsgosomewhere #vsco #vscogoodshot #igersvienna #igersaustria #diewocheaufinstagram #visualarchitects
A video I made of riding the trams in Vienna. Definitely ride the trams!
I could get anywhere within minutes, and I was within walking distance of the Schonbrun Palace and Gardens. Also, the homeowner left me her metropass and her bicycle so all my travel was free. I never had to pay for expensive meals (unless I wanted to) because I went grocery shopping and cooked all my meals at home. Comforts of home! I cannot stress Housesitting enough, people. You should get on that.
Shopping That Isn’t Overpriced FUBAR
Vienna is famous for its expensive shopping districts like the Graben and on Kartnerstrasse. There are tons of expensive jewelers, high-end clothes and shoe shops, and antqiue boutiques. BUT why blow all your money on the high streets when you can spend a couple cents on the same items at….
During the week, the Naschmarkt is a regular farmers market located just outside of Kettenbruckengasse uBahn station, but on Saturday mornings, it also features an AMAZING fleamarket. It mostly features antiques like chandeliers, home furnishing, bric-a-brac, and kitchen supplies, but it also has other amazing finds like historic photographs, Jugendstil jewelry for a fraction of the price on the high street, mobile phones, vinyl records, wall art, and SO MUCH CLOTHES. Here are three examples of some of the things I procured on the fleamarket. The above photograph is of a love letter I bought on the Naschmarkt for €2. It’s dated 1940 and sent from Switzerland by a woman named Grete to Salzburg to a man named Wolf. It’s in German but I translated it, it’s your standard love letter, full of hopes, longing, expectation and desire. But what’s interesting is that postal sticker on the back. It says it was OPENED by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht before it reached its destination, and you can clearly see the Nazi eagle and swastika. The other interesting feature is that it is addressed to Salzburg, which as we all know is in Austria. BUT the letter is addressed to the “German Reich.” Remember, this is 1940, so because of the Anschluss, Austria as a country had ceased to exist.
This above love letter I bought for €3. It’s a rare find on a Viennese fleamarket because it’s in ENGLISH! It was sent in 1947 from Vienna to a woman in Southend-on-Sea, UK. As you can see from the first line, the Austrian soldier has just been released from a Russian POW camp and is looking for his lost love Annie whom he hasn’t seen since 1939 before the war. Annie’s last name is listed here as Reifmann, which sounds awfully German to me. Or perhaps, Jewish? Maybe she had family in Austria and that’s how they met? But if it was sent to the UK, why was it back in Vienna for me to find? As the envelope indicates, it was Return-To-Sender. So either Annie didn’t live there anymore, she died in the blitz (or worse), or she was like, “You were a German soldier so fuck you.”
This above document I bought for €5. It’s a “Persilschein.” These were documents issued by the occupying Allied forces after the war to citizens who had proved they hadn’t been Nazis et.al. before or during the war. The document is in German, English, French, and Russian. Persil is a type of washing liquid, and schein means shine, so if you had this document, it literally meant your past was squeaky clean.
I also bought photographs, necklaces, and other trinkets and tokens on the Naschmarkt, basically at cost. Highly recommended for your Saturday mornings!! And you walk away with gifts and finds you won’t get on the fucking Graben.
Activities That Aren’t as Lame as Your Gramps
So Vienna is all about museums. They love that shit. They eat that shit up. But sometimes it feels like if you’ve seen one museum, you’ve seen them all. There’s only so much goddamned art one can take in before it all starts to look the same. So here’s a selection of the museums and galleries I liked that weren’t too much of a gaudy tourist trap.
Westlicht is an amazing photography gallery that has a wicked selection of the best photographs of the 20th and 21st century. The place also has it’s own cafe and bar, and a selection of great photography books for sale. Only €10 entry. Also, it’s located in a particularly grimy (but also charming) section of Westbahnstrasse so at least the affluent snobs from Kennebunkport won’t be there.
The MAK (free Tuesday nights!)
The museum of design is free every Tuesday night from like 6pm until closing, which is when I went, but I would have gladly paid the entry fee, it was amazing! These are pics I took inside. Look at this awesomeness!
There were video clips, light installations, and they gave you bubblegum to chew as part of the experiment! One section was a bicycle that needed to be pumped hard in order for the light installations to work! I loved it all. And of course, there were also the more refined design aspects, like art deco furniture and an entire wing dedicated to the evolution of the chair, hahaha.
The museum is on the Ringstrasse so it’s easy to find, but it wasn’t really patroned by tourists, rather by design students, so it felt like an edifying experience amongst people who genuinely care about this shit.
And and and! ThERE WERE KLIMTS!
Look at that gorgeous thing!!!
Mumok (I was only charged €6 for some reason)
The Museum of modern art was great because it was one of the few museums in the city that actively carried and promoted the works of women artists (more on this later). The exhibits were engaging and interesting. It’s in the middle of the Museum Quartier so it’s easy to find, but again, there weren’t very many tourists here, it was mostly students and locals. I liked that.
And when you’re done museum-ing, they have their own cupcake cafe inside!! Also the museum has free wifi and also a free app you can download on site for a free audioguide!
The price is supposed to be €11 but they only charged me €6 for some reason. Maybe I look like I’m under 27. BITCH I’M 35.
Wien Museum (free first Sunday of the month!)
I wouldn’t have necessarily paid the full entry for this museum if it hadn’t been free the first Sunday of the month, but I’m glad I went just for the Klimts! Did I mention I love Klimt and I eat that shit up? This here is a portrait of his longtime mistress Emilie Floge. It’s part of his gold leaf period and when his style was so unique and more two dimensional than the other portraits of the time that aimed to give the illusion of 3 dimensions. The Wien Museum also does like this history of the Stephansdom gargoyles and a whole bunch of other relics from Vienna’s past as a walled-city and such. They also had an exhibit on two really important artists from the pre and post war Vienna, detailing the sadness and atrocities happening around them that was highly stylized and super engaging. All in all, me likey, but glad me no pay full price.
Here’s another Klimt!
And this is an interesting story tied in with Klimt. This is a portrait of Arnold Schoenberg, the famous composer. The portrait was painted by Richard Gerstl who was having an affair with Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde. She briefly left her husband for Gerstl but returned a few months later for the children. When that happened, Gerstl hung himself. He was never famous or well known in his own time, but after the war he became so popular and now I’ve found his works in every major museum and gallery in Vienna. Below is his self portrait. Anyway, the reason this is super interesting and tied in with Klimt is because, over 100 years later, Schoenberg’s grandson Randy, a lawyer in Los Angeles, was hired to represent Maria Altmann in her Supreme Court case versus the country of Austria. Why was she suing them? They were holding on to Klimt’s famed portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, considered the Mona Lisa of Austria, and Altmann was the heir to the painting. It was looted from her family home by the Nazis and never returned. SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON. I found it rather fitting that the Klimts and the Gerstl portraits were hanging side by side. It’s like, hey guys, do you have any idea how much shit your heirs are gonna stir?
Also, they have works by Egon Schiele, whom I didn’t like 10 years ago, but I feel like he’s grown on me and I appreciate his stylized pain a lot more than Klimt now. Here’s him in a self-portrait, flashing us his west-side gang signs.
Resistance Museum (free forever!)
Now let’s not mince words. It’s not as if Austrians put up much of a resistance. When the Anschluss happened, the white anglo-saxon Austrians welcomed Shitler with flowers and a huge parade. They cheered him in the streets, the church bells rang out and the bakeries gave out free sweets. They welcomed it. They weren’t the “first victims of WWII” as they like to paint themselves. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few conscious objectors. Individuals did indeed resist and attempt to circumvent the Nazis, but there wasn’t exactly a cohesive, organized resistance movement. The only real official resistance in all of Europe that was organized and widespread (although quickly quashed) was the tram-workers strike in Amsterdam in 1941. No one in Europe was able to mount a large, organized resistance (although major props to the Polish for putting up a good fight too). Anyway, the resistance museum is free for obvious reasons (as are all Concentration Camps memorial sites throughout Austria and Germany, and the like…) and their displays have really interesting artifacts from individual’s resistance attempts. I was super engrossed in it. Worth the visit. I like bad-ass rebels.
Space Invader Hunting, and other street art hunting!
If you’re an actual hipster and not some tourist, then you know who Space Invader is. Also, if you read this blog often, then you know who he is. If not, what exactly are you doing here? Anyway, by now you should have already downloaded his Flash Invader app and have flashed at least one of his thousands of pieces erected around the world in dozens of cities. And if you have, then you know, that there are many of his pieces up in Vienna from his visits in 2006 and 2008. I flashed 23 of them.
Like this gem.
And this one.
And this one at street-level. The great thing about hunting Space Invaders when you’re new to a city is it is a free activity that allows you to get to know the layout of the city better. I found all my ‘Vaders in my first week in Vienna. After that, I could walk around the city without a map, because I knew each quartier and platz from him. “Oh I know this area because I found a ‘Vader here.” OR I knew that something wasn’t far off because I had already walked the distance to find him. Sometimes I would go hunting and the ‘Vader was long gone, but you could still see the imprint from the tiles in the wall or building or bridge. That would suck, but at least I discovered a new area of the city through it. Hunting ‘Vaders brings you to new areas of the city that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to otherwise. Sure he puts things up in touristy areas, but he also goes to the quiet, dead corners of the suburbs as well. Those are always awesome.
And Vienna is great for hunting the works of other great street artists. This is a Roa someone had the gaul to partly cover!
I call this one, “Neeeeeeaaaaarrrrr…….. faaaaaaaaaaaarrrr!”
Ah, the women of Sonke. I love Sonke’s oeuvre so hard. Oeuvre on fleek.
You’re beautiful. It’s society that’s fucked. I KNOW RIGHT.
My German is so good now, I can read this without having to resort to google translate! When I found this I was like… FINISH THE SENTENCE, I’M BREATHLESS WITH ANTICIPATION!!!
…was the best/worst thing that ever happened to you.
Bike-Share Rentals & Bicycle Paths
Vienna has the same city bike-share program as other major cities like London, Paris, Toronto, Montreal and NYC. You can find the stands located outside almost every major attraction or uBahn stop. You register with a credit card right there at the terminal and use the same pin number each time you want to take out a bike. They have large baskets, adjustable seats and 3 gears. And they’re super cheap compared to other cities! The first hour is free! After that, it’s like one euro for the next hour and it goes up incrementally after that but I think four hours is like less than latte. AND if you put it back before the first hour is up, then wait 15 minutes, you can withdraw another bike and get another hour free! Renting bikes from a shop is for suckers and not a hipster like you. I used these bikes a lot. There are excellent bike paths all throughout Vienna. One day I cycled from Meidling, along the canals, through the city, across the Ringstrasse, across the Danube, and up to the Prater, and that only took me 45 minutes! No traffic! Bike lanes are well-maintained and clearly marked. I felt super safe the entire time.
I also recommend you cycle along the Danube canal to check out some of the great murals and street art along the water. Great activity on a sunny Viennese day.
Before Sunrise film locations
Everyone’s favourite 1995 indie summer thinking-woman’s cult hit was filmed in its entirety in Vienna and after a month of being in Vienna, I would be walking down a small alley on the Molkerbastei, or I’d be at the Arena complex near Erdberg, and I’d be like, waaaaaait a minute….
Anyway, I found almost every location where they filmed their infamous scenes….
…from the bridge where they meet the dudes putting on the play about the cow…
…to the Riesenrad ferris wheel where they have their first kiss at sunset…
…to the street where they dance to the harpsichord then take mental photographs of each other.
I even found the record shop where they listen to that record in the listening booth. And Cafe Sperl where they pretend to speak on the phone to their friends…
…more on this place later!
It’s crazy to think how many famous people have come from Vienna. In fact, it’s crazy to think how many famous people were living in Vienna at the exact same time. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Sigmund Freud, Adele Bloch-Bauer, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler and ADOLF SHITLER were all living in Vienna at the same time. I like to think that if Klimt had passed Shitler on the street when Shitler was a starving artist, lugging his colours and palettes and brushes around and hoping to get into the art academy, Klimt probably would have felt sorry for Shitler. He probably would have given him a shilling out of pity. Anyway, with so many stars, it stands to reason their graves are here too. This is another free activity to do in Vienna that will get you exploring different areas, and you can enjoy the amazingly-scenic tram rides to get there. Also, don’t forget to Instagram them, you hipster douche.
First grave I found was the most important to me.
Luckily his grave was within walking distance from where I was staying. I found him pretty easily, and was pleased to see that the Jewish tradition of putting stones on the grave was being employed here. Klimt wasn’t Jewish, he was Catholic (yet he did some rather unCatholic things like fathering dozens of illegitimate children to poverty-striken young women), but many of his patrons were Jewish, and he wasn’t one of the many anti-semites running around the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time. He didn’t care, he socialized (and slept) with everyone. And perhaps his most famous patron was also buried in Vienna…
Well I say buried, but this is actually a crematorium wall, so I’m assuming her cistern is inside the wall. I must say, I am so glad Bloch-Bauer and Klimt passed away before the second World War. I can’t bear to think what might have happened to them had they lived…. Had they witnessed the destruction of civilized society, the murders and beatings on the street, their friends throwing themselves out of windows rather than be taken by the Nazis, their entire property be seized and then being forced into exile. Or worse, being deported to a camp. I’m glad they died of natural causes. I’m glad they have no idea what came next. But perhaps they did have a tiny inkling that their legacies would cause a massive shit-stir one day and turn the world on its head. Here’s hoping that thought gave them comfort.
Mozart was actually buried in an unmarked mass grave and it took decades for them to go in and try to find his remains. What lies in this grave could be Mozart, it may not be. But this was a super quiet experience, the cemetery was empty and I was the only one there. I told Mozart quietly that I enjoyed the marriage of figaro and the magic flute and his requiem and most of all, his piano concerto no.23 in a major k488. Grazie, Maestro!
Beethoven’s remains have been moved three times, but here he finally rests. Roll over! Haaaaaaa.
Using those old-fashioned photobooths is a HUGE thing in Austria and Germany (and France too, really). You’ll find the classic booths in most uBahn stations and places of interests. I found one inside the Museums Quartier. They’re only €2 for 4 photographs, and they come out looking super stylized in black and white. I love mine. It’s hanging on my wall right now.
For €7 you can have a tour of the imperial, ornate, illustrious Burgtheater near Schottentor, across the street from the Rathaus. If you like live theatre at all, backstage stories, and fresco paintings by Klimt before he was famous, then this is super fucking righteous and totally engaging (I majored in Theatre in university, so this was like a wet-dream for a hipster-shit like me). And if you’re lucky like me, you will be the only one to show up for the English-language tour, and instead of the tour being just an hour, you’ll be there for 3 hours and the staff won’t know you’re still there and they’ll turn the lights off on you and the guide and you have to find your way out of there by feeling the walls. It was super fucking cool and interesting, highly recommended!
The stage is set. The curtain rises.
I’ve found stolpersteines (which literally translates as “stumbling blocks”) all over Europe and of course they are here in Vienna too. This is another activity that is free and also loaded with meaning, heart, sadness, mourning, healing, hope, and all that other good stuff. If you walk around the city, pay attention to the ground. A German artist began installing these gold bricks into the ground, marking the spot where a person who was persecuted by the Nazi’s once lived. More of then than not, the person in question was killed, but sometimes the stolpersteine will note that the person survived. Most of these people were murdered in concentration camps or died in transit. So when you’re walking through beautiful and regal Vienna, and you find one of these stones, you immediately know the names of the people who once called that spot home and they were forcibly ripped from their homes and their families, then slaughtered like cattle. Don’t ever forget that every street, every corner, and every house has a dark and sad history to go with the good.
This family died in Auschwitz.
This family died in Auschwitz, Gurs, and Chelmno
Last Residences of Famous People
The internet is full of the former addresses of famous people. Sometimes their former residencies have been turned into museums, like Freud’s has above. Or sometimes there’s just a marker, like Kafka and Beethoven’s below. But more often than not, I would find an address, and there was no marker. Someone wonderful lived here and called it home, but no one who lives there now knows about it. Still, it was a free activity and it kept me exploring and full of wonder, so this was an A+ activity for a frugal hipster like me.
I made sure I found the homes of: Maria Altmann, Milena Jesenska, Adele Bloch-Bauer, and Klimt. Do you have some favourite celebs from Vienna? Maybe Michael Hanneke (you will only know who he is if you’re a hipster anyway)? Christoph Waltz? Google their addresses and go searching for them, you hipster-fuck.
Cafés That Aren’t Touristy Bullshit
A hipster without a cafe in which to drink and write is a hipster close to death. What would we do without our cafes? I DON’T EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT THE HORROR. Here’s my ultimate list of A+ cafes that featured zero tourists, only locals, and whose decor and drinks were top notch. I’m not including links here because I’m a carpal-tunnel hipster but all you have to do is google “Vienna + the cafe’s name” and you’ll find them easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
Liebling: good-looking people, rustic wooden tables great for writing, vintage furnishings, cheap lattes, a bit too smokey. Free wifi.
Café Nil: a kind of Marrakesh decor coupled with a 1950s green tile design. Adorable retro stands next to the tables carry the sugar, salt & pepper. Nice servers. Lots of natural light. Free wifi.
Café Pruckel: has been around for 100 years, and hasn’t changed it’s decor for 60. Unlike other massive centenarian cafes, this is populated solely with locals. Lots of newspapers on the wooden racks to read, free wifi, really good looking people abound.
The above photograph is of a communal fridge inside Siebenstern cafe, where locals can put their unwanted food, and anyone is invited to take it, although I mostly saw the homeless and refugees taking advantage. Free wifi, large communal tables, open late for food and drinks, good-looking servers who speak English.
This is what it looks like. Cafe plus bookstore plus vinyl shop plus good-looking people. The wifi password is clapyourhands. You’re welcome! I came here so many times, I loved it. Great for writing and people watching.
Vollpension: designed like your grandmother’s sitting room, free wifi and lotsa communal tables but so difficult to snag a spot, this place is super busy. Brunch on weekends needs to be reserved in advance.
The Breakfast Club: only open until 2pm, great food, almost no place to sit. No wifi but you can mooch off of Vollpension next door if you already have their wifi password.
Café inside Leopold Museum (separate entrance): you don’t need to pay to enter the museum to visit this cafe. Free wifi, really nice view of the Museumplein, gorgeous long-bar, newspapers to read, open late, separate smoking area, gorgeous tattooed guy behind the bar. I WANTED TO HAVE HIS ABORTION.
Café inside the Kunsthistorische Museum (must pay entry): You have to the entry fee of the museum to gain access to the cafe but THIS PIC BELOW IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. It’s like a bloody Russian novel up in hurr. Free wifi, and I chatted with a super rich grandmother and her grandson from NYC who sat next to me. They were charming in a myopic sort of way. The servers were marveled by how quickly I can type on my iPad. #hipsterproblems
Café Ulrich: free wifi, decent lattes, serves food and the tables after 5pm are reserved for diners. Creepy dudes can populate the long-bar, but in general, I liked this place.
Café Europa: I took the following photo inside Cafe Europa. Mirrors everywhere. Smoking section not properly secured, free wifi, decent lattes, lovely tall windows.
Supersense (EXTRA HIPSTER POINTS):
Okay this one I’ll link to because HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS THE GRAND PUBA OF HIPSTER. I wish I had discovered this place earlier in my stay (found it days before I left) because I instantly fell in love. Gorgeous Jugendstil Art Deco furnishings and large wooden high tables and stools, and free wifi. But the crowning jewel of this place was the attached shop that was a CORNUCOPIA of hipster shit that gave me an ironic stroke. There was an old wooden birdcage elevator upcycled into a recording booth that records you for 90 seconds and puts it on vinyl! They had wax and envelope stamps. There was a machine that put your thoughts/wishes/recipes/whatever on a scroll and sealed it in an antique bottle! I WAS ENCHANTED.
Also featured in Before Sunrise (the palm reader scene), it’s super small but is very charming and there’s lots of newspapers on the rack to read. No wifi but that’s good for writing.
Café Jelinek: early 20th century red velvet decor and lush window drapings, oddly shaped tables, free wifi, cheap lattes, a log fire, and lots of space. Surly and ornery servers but who cares. I’m just as surly. Hey! Surly only cares about one person. SURLY.
Hmm. Sorry Surly.
(Hipster points for knowing what I’m referring to.)
Café & Bar Warning
Even though the rest of Europe, and lo, the rest of the civilized world, has banned smoking in public establishments, Vienna is still behind the times. Technically there is some kinda no-smoking law, but it is either not enforced, or won’t really go into effect until 2017 (depending on who you ask). Thus, people will smoke in your face all day long in the cafes and no matter what kind of dirty looks you throw them, it won’t stop them. Some cafés have a smoking section (haaaaa! Remember Smoking Sections??!!) but staff rarely close the fucking doors to the smoking section, so all the smoke wafts over into the non-smoking section. You will walk out of every café or bar one minute closer to death and smelling like arsenic.
Cafés That Will Kibosh Your Buzz (aka AVOID)
Café Central: long-lineups, all tourists, loud, jerk waiters. I walked in to photograph the unusual inverted ceiling and then left.
Café Schwarzenberg: if you go here after peak hours, then it’s fine & kinda nice. Otherwise, it’s a shitshow.
Alt Wien: where 19-year-old university frat-holes go to piss on the floor
Skybar: just because you have a nice view of the Stephansdom doesn’t mean you’re cool. Also, FULL OF YUPPIES.
Café inside the Belvedere: €6 for a latte? Go fuck yourself, how about that.
Souvenirs That Aren’t Postcards or Tshirts
I wanted to get myself something that was quintessentially Viennese but that no one else would have. Something you can’t buy at those overpriced souvenir shops on KarntnerRing. I was reading a lot about Vienna and I came across the works of Secession artist and Wiener Werkstatte founder Koloman Moser. Aside from being an internationally acclaimed visual artist and member of Vienna’s intelligentsia of the early 20th century, he was also adept at the fine art of the Ex Libris.
For those hipsters not aware of the literati-snob practice of owning your own Ex Libris, let me explain:
Ex Libris is latin, and translates to, “Out of the library of,” or “Out of the book of.” It is a stamp, almost kind of like a Standard or a Coat of Arms, that indicates to whom a book belongs. You see, the socialites and intelligentsia of era’s past would of course own their own vast private libraries in their homes, and they liked to lend them out to their friends. But to keep track of all the books they had loaned and shared, they would stamp the inside cover with their own custom Ex Libris. As time went on, the design of the Ex Libris went from being a simple stamp with someone’s name on it, to a fashionable artistic expression of the person. And Koloman Moser was the go-to Ex Libris designer of 1900 Vienna. He fashioned them for everyone from Sigmund Freud to Adele Bloch-Bauer. Here are some examples of his work.
Pretty fucking sweet, right? So I was like, I WANT MY OWN EX LIBRIS! I’m a writer, I’m a literature-snob, I love Viennese-shit, and I’m a ridiculous hipster.
SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
So I found this shop on Siebensternegasse that only fashions stamps. That’s all they make! Nothing but stamps! I couldn’t believe something like that actually existed. That’s like having a milkman or a blacksmith. It’s so quaint! A stamp man! I walked in and asked if he could make me an Ex Libris. He asked if I had a design in mind, and I showed him the screencaps I had taken of Koloman Moser’s work. I asked if he could just take one design and plug my name in there. He said “keine problem” as they say in German, and 2 days and €35 later, I owned MY OWN FUCKING EX LIBRIS!
KNEEL BEFORE YOUR HIPSTER-QUEEN, BABYLON!!!
So if you want your own Viennese souvenir that wasn’t made in China or unravels in the wash, get thee to an Ex-Librisy (or something).
Hunting Vienna’s Dark Past
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having dark fascinations, like looking at photos of dead bodies, or collecting Nazi junk. Our fascinations aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with these fascinations that’s important. Using these mementos of humanity’s past to remind ourselves of what is good and evil, to remind us of history so as not to repeat it, I think, is a good thing. And Vienna is one of those cities that is responsible for a lot of shit. Namely: Shitler.
Of course you won’t find a single place in Germany or Austria that marks a place where Shitler lived or worked or was born or hung out. Obvi. Once you mark it, it’s turns into a place of pilgrimage. So not only are none of his former places of residence in Vienna marked, I betcha the current residents don’t even know. The internet is good for this type of thing (like I mentioned above in the Former Residences of Famous People section), so it wasn’t long before I found the site of Shitler’s first flat when he moved to Vienna from Linz circa 1906. It’s just around the corner from the Westbahnhof. The building itself is rather unassuming, kinda dank and under-maintained. However, when I found it one night when it was cold and windy out, I realized I needed to be discrete and respectful to the current residents. First of all, you don’t want to make a big fuss, and also, you don’t want to glorify things. So I looked at the place from across the street, I didn’t take any photos, I stared for a bit, then left. I don’t know what I was expecting to see or find, but it felt similar to when I’ve visited concentration camps. You reflect, you think, you move forward.
Also, I found out that after a couple years of living in flats in Vienna, and after being rejected twice from the Vienna Arts Academy, Shitler’s living allowance ran out and he became a homeless crazy beggar on the streets. He had to move into the homeless shelter in Meidling. I WAS HOUSESITTING IN MEIDLING. That was a total mindfuck for me because not only was the building I was living in pre-war, almost all of Meidling escaped Allied bombings, which means the streets and facades of Meidling probably looked exactly the same when Shitler was begging on the streets there. He probably knew my area well. When I would walk home at night, it gave the area an extra kind of layer of sadness and horror.
I also found out about one particularly sad detail of Cafe Sperl, seen in this picture I took below:
I mentioned Cafe Sperl above in the Before Sunrise section because this is where they filmed that scene where they pretend to talk on the phone. Cafe Sperl has been around for over a century and pretty much looks the same as it did then. In the early half of the 20th Century, Cafe Sperl was usually occupied by artists, both successful and starving. They had a practice where they would give starving artists a cup of coffee in exchange for one of their drawings or paintings.
One of those starving artists was — you guessed it — Adolf Shitler.
Naturally, Cafe Sperl doesn’t like to advertise this fact, so when you visit, just be mindful.
Just think of how different the last 100 years would have been if Shitler had just been accepted into the Art Academy. Talk about lack of foresight.
Another place to visit is the former location of the Hotel Metropole, which, after the Anschluss, was taken over by the Gestapo and became their headquarters. I found this place by accident because I found a Space Invader in the Morzinplatz (see! Hunting ‘Vaders leads to other discoveries!), and I noticed a huge empty green space with a large memorial stone atop it. People would disappear into the Metropole and would never be seen again. Interrogated, tortured, shipped off to a camp, never heard from again. The Hotel is long gone but being in that spot which overlooks a nice section of the Danube canal was a bewildering but meaningful experience.
Speaking of Vienna’s Nazi past that still haunts the present day….
Museums That Still Carry Nazi-Looted Art & Refuse to Give It Back Because They’re Blood-Profiteering Shitbags
I have mentioned many times in this post the infamous case of Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the fight to have her returned to her rightful heir. Last year in NYC I stood in line for 90 minutes to run inside the Neue Gallerie and stare at the portrait for an hour before closing. I’ve always loved the haunting portrait. It’s so famous, they even made a movie about it last year starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. It’s not a very good film, to be honest, but it gives you a good understanding of the legal battle (less about Adele herself). Actually, if you want an excellently-written study of Adele, her portrait, the cityscape of Vienna during Klimt and Adele’s time, and during the Nazi years, I would highly recommend reading Anne-Marie O’Connor’s book “The Lady In Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” I bought this book while I was in Vienna and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. MY HIPSTER BRAIN BLEW THROUGH CHAPTERS LIKE SOME PEOPLE BLOW COKE UP THEIR NOSE. Such a good read.
Anyway, the book goes into great detail about how Vienna and the German Reich systematically looted art from persecuted Jewish families in the city. Then, after the war, the very Nazis who had looted it were now in charge of restitution!! Many exiled Austrians didn’t want to return to Vienna for obvious reasons, but they wanted their paintings back. For this, they would need exit permits and visas for the paintings. Did they Austrians give them the permits? DID THEY FUCK. Of course they didn’t. Most of the time, the authorities wouldn’t even acknowledge that the paintings belonged to the families in the first place. They would fabricate or alter documents to claim the paintings had been “donated,” or “sold” to the state or to the galleries before the war.
Why? Because art is lucrative, and Nazis like to live like the prosperous despots they are.
Since Maria Altmann’s epic court case, where Austria had its ass handed to them on a global scale, they’ve tried to quash further legal battles with other heirs to paintings stolen by Nazis. They still don’t want to give up their paintings, even though they don’t own them, AND they’re profitting from the paintings. Here are just some of the museums that profit from Nazi-looted art and won’t give them back. Yes, I paid entry into these museums. Yes, I hate myself for it. Yes, I wanted to see the paintings. Yes, I sorta yelled at some museum attendants for having this art. Yes, I was almost thrown out. Whatever.
The Belvedere is perhaps the most well known (and most fucking expensive) museum and gallery in Vienna. I paid TWENTY FUCKING EUROS for a ticket to both the upper and lower Belvedere. This is the very same gallery that had the Adele Bloch-Bauer portrait for almost 70 years before they had to give it back. Do they still have Nazi-looted art on their walls? YOU BETCHA.
Right next to Klimt’s famous The Kiss painting hangs another of his portraits. It’s an unfinished portrait of a young woman named Amalie Zuckerkandl. I found it rather interesting that the Belvedere’s audioguide had NO audio or information on this piece. HOW INTERESTING. I wonder why? Because they don’t own the piece and it was stolen by the Nazi’s, that’s why.
As the lawyer who represented Altmann in court, Randy Schoenberg, writes in this piece for MSNBC, the piece actually belonged to Adele Bloch-Bauer’s husband! The very man who owned the portraits of Adele! The very man who willed them to Maria Altmann! The Nazis stole it, and sold it illegally to the Belvedere. The Belvedere doesn’t mention this anywhere on the plaque or in any documentation or guides, NOR does it mention that Amalie Zuckerkandl DIED IN BELZEC CONCENTRATION CAMP along with her daughter.
But the Belvedere DOES sell postcards, pins, books, bookmarks, magnets, and other capitalist bullshit with Zuckerkandl’s face on it. I need a moment to let the class wash over me.
The Vienna Secession began during La Belle Epoque to showcase works and artists who weren’t interested in the classical ways of painting dominating Viennese society. Klimt and Koloman Moser were founding members of it in the Wiener Werkstatte. In fact, the building was the place where Klimt’s famous Beethovenfries was first ever exhibited. The piece was meant to be temporary and torn down and destroyed, but someone convinced the Lederers (who were one of Klimt’s major patrons) to buy it. They cut it down and kept it. The Secession building was later destroyed during the war but rebuilt, and the Lederer’s art collection was stolen by the Nazis and they themselves were killed. Most of the Lederer’s collection burned in a fire, but not the Frieze. Erich Lederer, heir to the Lederer estate, and a Jew in exile, tried in vain after the war to get an exit permit and visa for the Frieze. Authorities said no, but they did acknowledge that it belonged to him, so they forced him to pay for its storage in a cellar underneath the Belvedere, where flooding from the war had caused water damage to the Frieze. Unable to get it out of the country, he sold it in 1956 to the founder of the Leopold museum for a mere$1150. He would have gotten more if he could have gotten it out of the country, but he couldn’t and he needed the money.
The Secession building was rebuilt and the Frieze now hangs there. I took this below photo of it. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the Secession but THUG LIFE THUG RULES. I took this pic and I got yelled at. HAAAAAA.
Now the Lederer heirs are suing Austria to try and get their Frieze back, and I hope they do. The audioguide of the Secession literally makes no mention whatsoever of what happened to the Frieze during or after the war. They lie and say it was donated. It was not, you liars.
The Leopold (Although at least they acknowledge it!)
Inside the Leopold you will find a lot of Klimts and Schieles, perhaps the largest collection of Schieles that anyone owns. Like this famous Klimt of Death and Life…
and this self portrait of Schiele…
One of the Schieles on the wall is a portrait of his longtime lover and supporter Wally, a ginger beaut with fat red lips. The plaque next to the portrait acknowledges that the portrait was looted by the Nazis and hung in the Leopold for decades before the heirs of it’s rightful owner, a Jewish woman who had died long before, sued the museum and the country when the portrait was on show in the USA. Because of such ownership disputes, the USA seized the portrait until the case could be resolved. The heirs won their case. They sold the piece, got what they were owed, and now it’s back in the fucking Leopold. I’m not sure if the Leopold was the buyer or if they convinced the buyer to loan it, but still….sneaky fucks.
Another fancy-schmancy museum, another looted piece worth millions that they won’t give back because who cares about Jews and persecution when there’s all that money, right? This is a painting by the grand Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. It’s called the Artist in his Studio. So basically, a self portrait. I took these pics inside the gallery.
This painting was owned by a man named Czernin who wasn’t Jewish himself, but married to one, so he and his family faced the same persecution. He sold the painting under duress. Guess who was the buyer?
ADOLF SHITLER HIMSELF.
He sold the painting under fucking duress the butcher of the 20th century. Does the audioguide of the Kunsthistorichemuseum make note of that? Nope. This piece hung in Shitler’s own private estate until after the war when Austria took it and placed it in the museum. Czernin and his heirs sued for restitution but where denied. Why?
“Because Czernin’s wife was only one quarter Jewish,” aka they don’t believe he actually faced persecution and that he wasn’t under any duress.
That is some bullshit right there. The entry fee for the Kunsthistorische museum is €15 too! Super expensive. So they profit from Nazi-looted art with the ticket price, and then they sell kitsch with the Vermeer on it in the gift shop, AND to add insult to injury, they don’t even acknowledge that this was stolen by Shitler in the first place!!
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
Subheader: Women Artists Need Not Apply Because Vagina
One glaring omission slapping everyone in the face who visits these museums is the lack of women artists on the walls of The Belvedere, the Leopold, the Secession, and the Kunsthistorische. There are literally no women artists on their walls at all. NONE. But! They do have a lot of paintings of naked women! Naked women in various unnatural, idealized, fantasy poses. There’s even Klimt and Schiele paintings of masturbating women! FUN. And what does the audioguide to these dehumanizing naked portraits say? “Look at the natural way in which the female form has been painted….” I’m sorry, but no woman’s boobs look like two upright cantaloupes with pink nubbins for nipples. What the fuck man. I understand that at the time these were painted, women’s sexuality was believed not to exist at all, so this was perhaps an act of rebellion. But was it also an act of objectification and exploitation? Yup. It was all those things. So listen up, women artists. The only way to get inside the Belvedere is to be naked. You’re not getting in there otherwise. Sorry, but… you know…. vagina.
Important German Phrases You Will Need
Ein milchkaffee bitte. A latte, please.
Kleine, bitte/Grosse, bitte. A small one, please/a big one, please.
Kann ich die zucker haben? Can I have the sugar?
Was ist das passwort fur das Wlan? What’s the wifi password?
Es gibt Wlan? Is there wifi?
Ist das Wlan kaput? Is the wifi not working?
Wo sind die Toiletten? Where’s the toilets?
Wo ist der schlussel fur die Toiletten? Where’s the key for the toilets?
Kann ich zahlen bitte? Can I pay please?
Wie viel kostet das? How much does that cost?
Nein, das ist zu teuer! No, that’s too expensive!
Kann ich die Rechnung haben, bitte? Can I have the receipt please?
Danke schoen! Thanks a lot.
Vielen danke fur deine hilfe! Many thanks for your help!
Das ist mein einziger Mantel und mein Reisverschluss ist kaput! This is my only coat and my zipper has broken! (I had to figure this out really quickly one day when this exact scenario happened to me on the street and when I finally found a tailor around the corner, he spoke no English. Also learned: tailor = SCHNEIDER!)
Schoen tag! Have a nice day!
Schoen abend! Have a nice evening!
Ich mochte ein Termin bitte. I’d like an appointment please (great for when you need a haircut or whatever)
Ich kann nur wenig Deutsch Sprechen. I can only speak German a little.
Mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut. My German is not very good.
Ich verstehe nicht. I don’t understand.
Sprechen Sie Englische? Do you speak English?
Sprechen Sie Franzosiche? Do you speak French?
Ich lerne Deutsch! I’m learning German!
Das ist ein schoenen, perfekten Schwanze. Nice dick, bro.
** I have omitted the umlauts from almost everything in this post because….reasons.
I hope this Hipster Guide to Vienna has been somewhat helpful for your future visits to the Austrian capitol of cool. If you link to this post, or repost, please remember to give a sistah some credit. I took all these photographs myself and it was a lot of work putting this post together.
Just don’t be a ding-dong. Do the right thing.
AUF WIEDERSEHEN, MEIN LIEBLINGS!
Last year when I was living in Brussels, I was frequenting my absolute favourite flea market in the world Jeu de Balle, buying photographs and love letters and other trinkets. As usual, when the flea market is over, the vendors usually leave a whole trove of junk just lying on the cobblestone grounds that either they couldn’t sell, that broke, that was damaged, that got soaked from the rain, or that they just don’t want to transport back to their warehouses. The thing is, the street cleaners come in very quickly after the market is over to pick up all the trash and wash the square clean! So if you’re crafty, quick, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can get your hands on some amazing antique and vintage gems.
Seeing as how I’m an excellent scavenger (and I don’t like paying for things), I would always scour the cobbles (and in between the cobbles!), go through the piles of trash, kick over soaked boxes and rifle through all the discarded remains for whatever meant something to me. From my scavenges, I have procured monochrome photographs from the 1920s, gold-rimmed picture frames, and these two letters written in German in 1946.
As you can see from the very top picture, the stamps were ripped from the envelopes (probably because 1946 stamps are worth a lot!) but I was more interested in the contents of the letters!
Luckily, the internet loves to help! I tweeted out for help in translating them, and a wonderful follower of mine from Berlin, who wants to be referenced here as Resa Lamego, offered to help! She was able to translate the letters very quickly because her English is amazing, and even though she was busy travelling down to Heidelberg, she still did a fabulous job.
The letters mostly just contain mundane minutiae of these women’s lives from 1946, nothing mind-blowing or tragic or epic, but the language employed is quite nice!
Here’s an excerpt from the 1st letter (edited for content… really just the most interesting parts!)
Malmö, the 28-08-1946
My dear Mady,
Thank you so much for your lovely letter! I’m glad to hear you are in Switzerland. It is wonderful that they all who have been/ used to be in Germany gain such a trip. From the photo I can tell that the nature must be very beautiful. I hope you are completely recovered/healthy when you travel back home! Do you really believe you will be able to come to Sweden? I would be so happy if it was possible. Then you must come to Malmö. As before I got the children from (..)? Now we got the Karl-Jo-Haus-School back. Last year sick children from France and Austria were living there […] One always needs to be with the children, one needs to help them to eat, to play and to bathe. […] It is very hard to write in German and I make many mistakes. I hope you are able to read it? I have never been very good in German but maybe it is harder than usual because I was reading in English the whole winter long. I received my major and can now be a teacher of English. Half of my summer months this year I spent in an international school in Helsingor and there English was the conversational speech. Now my head is full of English words and phrases. So now I need to practice in this letter otherwise I will forget my German and that can’t be!
My dearest regards,
And here’s an excerpt from the 2nd letter, unedited because the whole thing was totally cool.
My dear Mady,
Thank you so much for your letter! From the date I can tell that it has been already over a month before I received your letter. I can’t really understand why. Time has passed so quickly. Now you probably are back in Belgium? If so, I send this to your home. Have you recovered dear Mady? Oh, I hope you are from the bottom of my heart!
So, Mady, you think I am chubby/big? Oh well, that is possible. I love to eat and maybe I do it too much. The photo was from summer and then I am always bigger because then I don’t have my work. So I think now it’s better. One doesn’t like to be big!
I got from your letter that you are glad to be back in Belgium. Here in Sweden we have a saying: Foreign countries are good, but home is always the best. And I believe that is very true. I haven’t been to foreign countries, you know, except Denmark and Norway and that for us aren’t really foreign countries. For the next summer I hope I will be allowed to travel to England. I am supposed to have English classes with children, you know and of course it should be very good for me to spend a few months in England. That way one learns the language much better.
Dear Mady, you say that maybe you will come back to Sweden. How happy I should be if that was possible. Will you come alone or with other people? Oh, it would be wonderful to meet you again. Please Mady, if you can, so come, come! I am telling you my dearest welcome!
And now, Mady, to a quick ‘hear-you-again’, I hope!
My dearest regards!
P.S. May I also send my regards to your family?
Oh Anna-Kerstin, you sweet Danish-living-English-teaching friend! How wonderful and sweet you were to your friend Mady! And such a shame that someone saw fit to discard your beautiful letters into a trash heap in Brussels. So glad I recovered them and saved them!
As I wrote about for VICE, the main reason why personal items like this end up on the fleas is because the owner passed away and their family just wanted to liquidate all the belongings. Why? They probably weren’t on very good terms.
So Mady, I hope you had a good life. Your surviving family is shit.
To the flea markets!!
I once blogged about my writing practice and process, and I feel this is a nice dovetail: my writing desk and space. We all need to carve out our own little nooks in this world, and this tiny corner is mine.
This where I do all my writing: all my short stories, all my blogging, and all my freelance articles are done here, including a little doodling and reading now and then. I decorated it like this because I think it reflects me and my personality best. Some people prefer really modern, sleek, office-y, stainless-steel-type designs, and others prefer a kind of non-descript, antiseptic look. But I wanted my space to be peppered with all of the things that inspired me, visually and spatially, and all the things that really mean something to me.
For example, these are my Lebanese grandparents making-out on their front porch in Montreal circa 1948. I typed out that Bukowski quote on my typewriter. All the picture frames were bought from London flea markets, but a few I found discarded on the sidewalk. Who throws out gorgeous picture frames?!
That photograph in the foreground of the two 1920s women pushing the pram: I have no idea who they are. I found them discarded on the flea market grounds in Brussels right before the sky opened up and an incredible tempest washed everything away. I feel like I saved them.
Those are Belgian telegrams, and also some French postcards ad German letters, which I bought from their respective flea markets. I typed out the quote at the bottom, and I found the image of the typewritten quote at the top online and then printed it out on photographic paper at a pharmacy in London.
I got the antique iron keys from a friend who bought them for me when I was living in Copenhagen. I typed out the Dumas quote, and it sits on a small blue photo album from the 1940s that I bought in Paris. The vase & saucer I got at a London flea market, and the typewriter ribbon tin I bought at the Brooklyn flea.
The pill bottles in the foreground I got at a flea here in Toronto. The red-cover books in the background are all travel guidebooks from the 1920s, 30s, & 40s. It’s so interesting to read about “where to find a public bathhouse in London,” or about how many Francs you can get for your Crowns, Half-Crowns, Shillings, and Sovereigns. There’s even a section on why French customs strictly prohibits British matches from entering the country, but you can bring your own cigarettes. Also, air travel was so new, that they don’t really mention it. They only mention taking the ferry from Dover to Calais! The guidebooks have fold-out maps and even photographs. Looking at Amsterdam then and comparing it to now is such a mind-fuck.
That’s a Bukowski quote.
I bought that cigar box from a flea market in Düsseldorf. I put all of the small monochrome photographs that I bought from flea markets around Europe in there. A note about the photographs: I don’t know the people. I am assuming they’ve all passed, seeing as how their personal family photo albums were for sale on flea markets. I buy them because they look so happy. I like their faces. Also, sometimes going through private photos reveals some interesting secrets, as I wrote in an essay for VICE recently … And if they’re not in the cigar box….
… they’re hanging on my wall. From left to right, I bought him in Brussels, him in Copenhagen, and her in Paris.
That babe second-from-right is my Mum when she was 18. The rest, left to right, Brussels, Brussels, Berlin, and the child on the right is from Amsterdam.
These ladies are so old, they’re beginning to fade, but I love them all the more because they’re so bad-ass. On the left, I bought them in Paris and on the back it’s dated June 18, 1929. On the right, I bough her in Brussels, it’s dated August 18, 1922. She’s so fucking cool, I can’t even. I’m all out of evens.
Bought both from Brussels. Street scenes and street photography from the early 20th century are so amazing to me. I love the composition of the left photo! Right photo on the back is dated May 1942 and it says they just returned from shopping.
There’s my gorgeous bee-yooot. Read this for the story behind the provenance of this baby.
Some of the books that really moved me that are resting on my desk are All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.
I feel like I become a different person when I sit down at this desk. Outside, I’m gregarious and silly and hungry and moving and yelling and dancing and what not… but here, I am something else.
I have a lot more upcoming publications yet-to-be-announced, but now you know where I was when I wrote them.
Remember to update your links and visit the new home of ChristineEstima.com!
You guys know I’m a huge flea market nut. I’ve blogged about the stuff I’ve found before. But the flea markets I used to patron in Germany when I lived there (specifically Cologne and Berlin) all carried lots of Nazi junk, which for a Canadian, is not something you ever get used to seeing. In this piece, I talk about the disturbing nature of these pieces, and also how they have affected me.
I feel like our morbid interests aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with those interests that’s important … I think learning from this stuff is a positive thing.
Click here or on the above photo to read it.
I took all of the photographs featured in the piece. The one of the framed monochrome photographs on a mantle is actually in my bedroom. Those couples just look so happy!
Fanks for reading, munchkins.
I’ve started to decorate my flat with things that I have collected from flea markets, car boot sales, and vintage fairs over the past few months. As I was officially homeless for 4 months, and living out of a backpack with limited space, I kept all of these goodies folded in an envelope tucked inside my iPad case. Anything that meant anything to me was tucked in there, and I kept it close to me at all times, for if the iPad was stolen, it could be replaced, but the photos and letters tucked behind it never could… and that would be a true loss to me. I would be apoplectic with misery.
In essence, these little trinkets got me through the most horrible period of my life, which I’m glad is now over. So now that I have a home again, I put them up to always remind myself how close I came to be swallowed by the snake.
Everything you see here was either purchased at the Canal Saint-Martin flea market in Paris, Pinacotheque in Paris, the Jeu de Balle flea market in Brussels, the Foam Gallery in Amsterdam, the Brick Lane flea market in London, the Southbank Vintage car boot sale (London), the Wimbledon car boot sale (London), or online from Gumtree.com.
To answer your already-brewing questions, no I don’t know any of the people in these photographs. I just liked them: their composition, their chiaroscuro, the faces of the subjects, and the fact that there are no other copies of these pictures in the world, no digital reprints. I am the only witness to these moments in time left in the world.
I also have framed the 1945 love letter that I blogged about here. It’s up on the wall, but I forgot to photograph it.
I found this online and printed it on photographic paper.
That love letter in the back, from Brussels, is written by a woman to a man, and it describes (in French) a dream she has about making love to him. I also bought all of these picture frames from flea markets.
Now these people I DO know. In the back is my Jiddo (that’s Arabic for Grandfather) in his WWII army uniform. And the two pictures on either side are of Jiddo and Sitto (Arabic for Grandmother) on their porch on Rue Berri in Montreal, circa 1948. See? Not all Arabs are terrorists. Some of them just like to make-out on their front porches.
I think my favourite photographic find of all of these is the one on the far-left. I found her at the Jeu de Balle flea market in Brussels, and on the back, it just says the date: August 18, 1922….Ninety-one years old. She is one dapper lady too, just chillin’ on a beach head. Swagger.
If you look closely at one of these photographs, you’ll see me.
Once again, my lovely typewriter! The quote I typed here is from Hemingway, it says, “There is nothing to writing, all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I typed these quotes too. The top is Bukowski, the bottom is Alexandre Dumas.
I typed this on an envelope. It’s another Bukowski.
I love sleeping here, under the watchful eye and soothing words of those who came before me.